Flint squatted in the undergrowth, his broad steel blade lying across his knees, and the collar of his drizabone turned up against the rain. He peered out from beneath the brim of his akubra, the mouth of the cave just visible, a dark grin amongst the gum trees farther up the escarpment. The line of smoke trailed from its corner, thin and blue, winding up through the damp, grey-green of the trees. He might have wandered for days down here, looking for the Glenroy if that smoke hadn’t given them away. It would be hours yet, he knew, before the smoke would thicken, heavy and black with the fat of the children.
The screaming had started and stopped some while ago, the last, red wail echoing away down the valley, silencing the sound of the bush. It was taken up again shortly after, mimicked by some thoughtless, black-eyed lyrebird, but it trailed off a moment later, the bird perhaps realising what it copied. Flint imagined the Glenroy, up in their cave laughing.
There was nothing Flint could’ve done for the kids. He’d got back to The Hall too late. He knew, even before he got close, the silence overwhelming, wrong. He came round the front of The Hall to find Dad and Pop lying hacked and mangled on the top step. They hadn’t even made it out the door. Their blood had gone thick and sticky in the heat of the day before the storm broke; a rich, dark contrast to the peeling, pale green paint of weatherboard walls of The Hall. The Blackburn plaque had been pulled down from above the door, its clean white boards, the sharp black letters stomped to pieces on the steps, spattered with the blood of his father and grandfather. Flint clenched his jaw and stepped over the bodies, knowing what waited inside.
The wives lay strewn about the floor, spoiled, battered and discoloured, all eight of them lifeless and staring. There wasn’t much blood, not compared to out on the steps, but it didn’t make them any less broken. He was suddenly angry at the older men, for keeping the wives to themselves, for never giving him a share. He thought of his father, whenever Flint would ask for a go.
“Don’t fucken akse me,” he’d say. “Akse Dad, they’re his fucken wives.”
There’d be no bloody asking Pop anything now would there? Flint scowled, crouched amongst the sodden scrub, down slope from the cave. And no having a lie down with the fucken wives neither. Abruptly he moved, creeping away beneath the trees until he found an overhanging rock where he could sit out of the rain and watch for the black change in the thin line of smoke.
He stared out across the valley, trying not to think of the Glenroy, up there with the Blackburn kids. It made him sick just thinking about it, the fucken animals. Not even the black fellas were as bad to eat other fucken people.
The green of the gum trees faded to grey, then to blue as they crossed the valley from where Flint sat, gathering into an inky haze, rising to the feet of the sheer walls that towered above everything down here. Where the weathered charcoal of the rock had sheared away, revealing layers of colour beneath, Flint traced the striations with his eyes, the soft shift in the stone from gold, to orange, to brown. So vibrant in the sun, the walls of the valley were muted beneath the steel clouds, sombre, as if frowning on the blasphemy the Glenroy brought here.
Above him, across the valley, Flint could see the rounded peak of Pulpit Rock, the outcrop where The Grand Father, the old Blackburn, his father’s father’s father used to stand and preach, where the family would gather to listen when Flint only came to his mother’s knee, and where a Blackburn would always keep watch with a rifle, looking for Glenroy on the trails below.
But there were no rifles anymore, or at least no bullets, and no Blackburns neither. Flint was all that was left, and he meant to get into that cave, when the Glenroy were fat and heavy on the meat of Blackburn children, and show every last fucken one of them their own insides. Turning his gaze away from the Rock, he pulled his broken chunk of oilstone from a pocket in his drizabone, spat on it, and set it to the steel of his blade.
It was almost full dark by the time Flint neared the mouth of the cave, the thick smoke of the cook fire diminished once again to a thin trail, creeping along the blackened, greasy ceiling to waft away into the night. He crouched in the scraggly undergrowth again, watching the lazy Glenroy lying around the fire, hands and faces still filthy from their barbaric meal.
Flint could see old John Glenroy, dozing on his back, one hand resting on his shotgun. It was a source of argument that gun. It had been years since the old man had shot anyone with it, and even though he carried it everywhere, most didn’t believe there was anything in it. Flint wasn’t about to find out; the old prick was going to be the first to get it.
He lifted his necklace to his mouth, the twin finger bones of mother and daughter from his first raid on a Glenroy house, and kissed it for luck.
“Alright you fucken savages,” he whispered to himself, rising from his hiding place. With his wide steel blade in one hand, and a heavy ball-peen hammer in the other, he charged into the cave.
Flash Fiction: Impetus @ Terrible Minds – http://bit.ly/K6HmPW